Words and Illustrations by Annie Coggan
The evening of Stephen Petronio Company at The Joyce Theater was more like visiting a small jewel-like dance museum rather than attending a live performance.
Beginning with a Merce Cunningham piece, Signals, (1970) one can see the evolution of modern dance: from the pedestrian necessity of the original choreography in juxtaposition to the adept athleticism of Mr. Petronio’s current company. Oddly, the hyper-intellectualism of the chairs and sticks games in this piece is superseded by the exquisite shapes of Cunningham’s technique. With this piece, the door to the museum was opened and the next 30 years were revealed.
“Wild Wild World,” an except from Petronio’s UNDERLAND (2003) is a kinetic love letter to New York City’s club scene through the 80’s, 90’s and beyond with Tara Sudkoff’s “hyperpunk” costuming. Structured with a dynamic opening solo by Nicholas Sciscione and a closing solo by petite and seductive Jaqlin Medlock, the piece references the innocent freedoms of New York City nightlife.
The world premiere of Hardness 10, also by Petronio, is the final exhibit in the dance museum and a revelry of organized contact improv. Patricia Field’s text emblazoned on unitards seemed to put the dancers’ thoughts on the outside of their bodies, subsequently seeming to control all their movements. The music of Nico Muhly is played aloft a sinewy platform as the dancers dive and test an orgy of brave, physical experiments with each other’s weight.